House Managers and Realtor News

The latest news, trends, and gossip in the real estate industry.

Are You Being Served?

Illutstration by Tyson Smith/

Meet the men and woman who keep Dallas’ biggest homes running smoothly.

House managers are the newest must-have employees. They are not maids or personal chefs, rather, they keep an eye on the housekeepers and track all the basic services required to keep a large home running smoothly these days—landscape, lighting, sprinkler, pool, misting system, mosquito control, not to mention house repairmen such as plumbers, electricians, painters, and roofers. And as homes become even more technologically advanced, the need for dependable managers is growing.

“Before homeowners return from trips, we get the cars washed and gassed up,” says Tina Lawson, owner of Dallas-based STS Inc., an estate management company. “We make sure there’s food in the fridge so they can come home and just relax.”

House managers earn from $65,000 to $150,000 or more annually, says Al Martino, owner of Martino Domestic Staffing and Chefs International in New York, who has placed butlers, chefs, and house managers for 32 years, many in Texas homes. He says requests for both house managers and personal chefs here are on the rise, especially as homes have grown larger and more complex.

“The larger the house, the larger the problems,” says Tina Lawson, who manages a 10,000-square-foot house as well as a 6,000-square-foot house. “Trim trees, remove bugs, maintain home entertainment electronics through out the house. When something breaks, you have to bring in several different people to get to the root of the problem.”

House managers do not necessarily live on the property; most work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or part-time. Diane Buescher has been a house manager for 14 years. She’s at the house three days a week but on call 24/7. Buescher, like most house managers, knows the house better than the homeowners. She has moved them several times and walked through the house with the contractors so she knows how to run everything from the elevator to the espresso machine. A professional organizer, she puts everything away, and caterers and bartenders need her input whenever the homeowners entertain. She hires services necessary to keep the home clean and functioning. She even screens the mail.

“These homeowners don’t want to bother talking to the Maytag repairman,” Lawson says. “They want to make one phone call and have it covered.”


Realtor News
The talk is that the hot real estate market may finally be cooling—even here. After the announcement last month that the Maple Terrace was NOT being converted into condos, word was out that if projects haven’t started, they might be scratched. Like Galleria North/Shelton, for instance.

“There is a massive oversupply in two areas—low-end town homes and high-end condos” in Uptown’s expensive high-rises, Mark Giambrone says, “and there’s going to be a correction.” He’s not a real estate agent, (he’s an institutional money manager and investor) but Giambrone is developing an Uptown project, 4145 Buena Vista, which he thinks targets an undeveloped market between the two extremes. The five contemporary homes designed by architect Ron Wommack will range from $849,000 to $1,049,000. Rather than focus on the surface splurge—marble veneers, stainless appliances—Wommack will design timeless architecture with clean lines. “We want this to be a project that will age gracefully and connect visually to the Katy Trail,” Wommack says. “We want to leave the landscape better than when we got there.”

Listings are running longer, but Dallas is still regarded as one of the strongest markets in the country. And a good value. “Twenty years ago, I said Dallas was underpriced when you looked at the price of our homes as a percentage of income,” appraiser D.W. Skelton says. There’s inventory all over town, but the Park Cities still have more buyers than sellers. Fernando M. Alva at Keller Williams says business picked up after the Fourth of July; Ellen Terry says summer sales in Dallas are usually laid back. Still, Jini Cyr of Coldwell Banker sold a home on Wander Place in less than a week. And Ray Gonzalez at Ebby Halliday kept his fingers walking through contracts in northwest Dallas


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